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Spinal Cord. 2001 Jan;39(1):15-22.

Factors associated with sleep apnea in men with spinal cord injury: a population-based case-control study.

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Department of Rehabilitation Medicine, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington, USA.



To characterize a population of spinal cord injury (SCI) patients with sleep apnea, and to determine associated factors and comorbidities.


Population-based retrospective case-control study.


584 male patients served by a Veterans Affairs SCI service.


Medical records were reviewed for sleep apnea diagnosis, demographic information, neurologic characteristics, and treatments received. Sleep study reports were not available to determine the nature of abnormal respiratory events (ie central, obstructive, hypoventilation). For each case with tetraplegia, a control tetraplegic subject without sleep apnea diagnosis was selected.


We identified 53 subjects with diagnosed sleep apnea: 42 tetraplegic, 11 paraplegic. This represented 14.9% of all tetraplegic and 3.7% of all paraplegic patients in the population (P<0.0001 for comparison of tetraplegic and paraplegic proportions). In tetraplegic subjects, sleep apnea was associated with obesity and more rostral motor level, but not with ASIA Impairment Scale. Medical comorbidities associated with sleep apnea in non-SCI patients, such as hypertension, were more common in case subjects. Less than half of case subjects were receiving some form of treatment. For motor-complete tetraplegics, long-term positive airway pressure treatment was less common with motor level C5 and above compared to C6 and below.


In this population, sleep apnea has been frequently diagnosed, particularly in tetraplegic subjects. The true prevalence is likely to be considerably higher, since this study considered only previously diagnosed cases. Sleep apnea was associated with obesity and higher neurologic level, but not ASIA Impairment Scale. Medical comorbidities were more frequent in this group, and treatment acceptance was poor with higher level motor-complete injuries. Since the type of sleep apnea (central or obstructive) was not distinguished, we cannot comment on the prevalence and associations based on specific types of sleep apnea.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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